The Score: Amazon County, Cable News, Christmas Songs, Billy Elliot

This week on The Score – Why did Amazon choose Northern Virginia for its HQ2? What effect does cable news have on American politics? Can left, right, and center debate without yelling at each other? Is Billy Elliott a Christmas classic or crass propaganda?

The Score is a bit late this week. My apologies are due but please blame an early-season rhinovirus for the delay.

2019 General Assembly
state Senator Creigh DeedsLast Tuesday in Charlottesville, state Senator Creigh Deeds and Delegate David Toscano, the Democratic leader in the House of Delegates, held a town hall meeting with constituents at Monticello High School. Afterwards, I spoke one-on-one with Senator Deeds about the aims of the Democratic caucus in 2019. I also asked him about ranked-choice voting and the prospects for legalizing cannabis in Virginia.

Deeds has twice been a candidate for statewide office (attorney general in 2005, governor in 2009) and has served for 28 years combined in the House of Delegates and state Senate, so I also asked him whether, over the decades, his mind has been changed on any public policy issues.

National Landing
The big news last month was the announcement by Amazon that it will split its much-talked-about HQ2 between New York and Virginia. The Virginia half will straddle the line between Alexandria and Arlington, in an area that will be called “National Landing,” an area including the neighborhoods of Crystal City, Pentagon City, and a portion of Potomac Yards.

A few days ago, I spoke to two experts at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University about whether public subsidies were necessary to entice one of the world’s richest companies to set up shop in Northern Virginia. Michael Farren and Anne Philpot answered my questions.

Farren and Philpot are the authors of a recent policy paper entitled “Amazon HQ2 Is the Only Competition Where the Losers Are Winners: Why Economic Development Subsidies Hurt More than They Help.”

Dismal Musical
Holidays bring various forms of entertainment: movies, concerts, TV shows, and stage productions. The Score’s Tim Hulsey went to Arlington to see Signature Theater’s production of Billy Elliot: The Musical, with a score by Elton John and Lee Hall. Based on Hall’s screenplay of the 2000 Stephen Daldry film with Jamie Bell and Julie Walters, the show is perceived as kid-friendly but Tim thinks differently. Here’s a video preview of the show, which runs through January 6, 2019:

After you hear Tim’s take on it, you won’t be surprised to learn that Wall Street Journal theater critic Terry Teachout called his own review of Billy Elliot: The MusicalKarl Marx in a Tutu.”

Cable News
Nicole Hemmer Miller Center UVAThe evolution of broadcast news over the years is a topic addressed by Nicole Hemmer at the Miller Center for Public Affairs at the University of Virginia. I met with her at her office last week to discuss cable news, but first I asked a historical question related to last month’s anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and the TV network news coverage that followed it.

Hemmer is the author of the book, Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics, and she recently published an article in the Washington Post called “Five Myths About Cable News.”

Talking Heads Without Yelling
PublicSquare.net The Square CircleIt could be that a project called PublicSquare.net is an antidote to the polarizing aspects of cable news chat shows.

PublicSquare.net is a multimedia, non-profit enterprise with a goal of raising the level of discourse about politics and public policy. I met with its founder, James Kidd, at a branch of the D.C. Public Library. I asked him about the purpose of PublicSquare.net and how it operates. He noted that it has several video programs, the anchor being The Square Circle but also including Scholar’s Mate, Bookmarks, and Outside the Box.  All the programs have the intention of bringing together people with different points of view — conservative, liberal, libertarian — who engage with each other respectfully even if they disagree on particular topics.

From the Archives
December is the heart of the holiday season, and the holidays bring music: Christmas songs are heard relentlessly from the day after Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day. Some radio stations change their formats for the season to go “all Christmas, all day long” — sometimes as early as mid-November.

Ronald Lankford sleigh rides jingle bells silent nightsA few years ago, I interviewed Virginia author Ronald Lankford about his book, Sleigh Rides, Jingle Bells, and Silent Nights: A Cultural History of American Christmas Songs. Lankford is also the author of the 2016 book, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: An American Hero, Folk Music U.S.A. : The Changing Voice Of Protest (2005), and What is the Future of the Music Industry? (2013), among other books.

This interview with Ronald D. Lankford at the 2014 Virginia Festival of the Book in Charlottesville is drawn from the archives.

The Score will be back next week with more news, reviews, and interviews, including a conversation with an attorney from the Institute for Justice about an unusual law suit involving a Virginia publisher against burdensome copyright requirements being enforced by the Library of Congress.